Make It Move!
Create Digital Strobe Effects

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#1. Starting with an original single image photo shot in the studio, I selected the subject with the Magic Wand tool. (Model: Tanya Perez.)

What is a strobe effect? In a true stroboscopic photograph, multiple images of a moving model are repeated as this special kind of flash fires multiple times, creating dramatic and dynamic movement. You can add to the impact of this effect with virtually any subject, if you do it digitally. In the studio with a real strobe, you have to make lots of tests and proceed by trial and error. Working on your desktop, on the other hand, with Adobe Elements, Photoshop, or other image editors, you can see exactly what you're getting as you create it.

I started with a single image that I shot in the studio of model Tanya Perez with normal electronic flash lighting. If you are photographing an object or a person with this effect in mind, it's best to photograph against a plain, solid colored background which is evenly lit. Choose a color that is very different from that of the subject, as this will make it easier to isolate the subject later.

#2. Pressing Command-J (Control-J for Windows) on the keyboard places a selection on a new layer with a transparent background.

Open your original photo and duplicate it. Choose Image>Duplicate from the menu bar. Close your original, save it, and work on the duplicate. This way, if you don't like the results at any stage, you can go back to your original, make a new duplicate and start again.

Isolate From The Background
Next, we need to cut the subject out of the background. In Elements or Photoshop 7.0.1, use the Magic Wand tool to select the background (because it is a more uniform color than the subject). To add to the selection, I held down the shift key and clicked in any areas that hadn't been selected the first time. Continue until the entire subject has been selected.

Now, in Elements or other programs, you can duplicate the layer, then simply delete the selected background. This leaves the model on a transparent background, as shown in #1.

#3. Once I had created a new larger background in a new file, I dragged the image of the model onto the new background with the Move tool.

In Photoshop, to select the model rather than the background, I chose Select>Inverse. Then, I pressed Command-J (Control-J for Windows) on the keyboard to place Tanya, now cut out of the background, on her own layer with a transparent background, #2.

Increase Canvas Size
In order for my final image to accommodate multiple copies of Tanya, I had to make the background larger than the original single photo. From the Image menu, I chose Canvas Size and enlarged the background to hold about five copies of the subject, selecting the same resolution as the original image and white as the color. This will be the background layer of my final composite.

#4. After duplicating the model layer and moving it behind the original in the Layers palette, I used the Move tool to re-position it to the left of the first image.

Both this new background and the single image of Tanya on a transparent background are now open on the desktop. Click on the Move tool, go to the image of Tanya, and click and drag it onto the new large white background. In the Layers palette of the new bigger background, the single image of Tanya will appear as Layer 1, above the white background on the bottom, #3. Go back to the original image of Tanya and close it.

Now the fun begins. Copy Tanya by going to the Layers palette and dragging Layer 1 to the New Layer icon at the bottom of the palette, immediately to the left of the palette trash can. A new layer, a copy of Tanya on the transparent background, will be generated. Named Layer 1 copy, it appears above Layer 1 in the Layers palette. In the image window, you can't see the two layers because they're exactly on top of each other. Move the new layer behind the first image of Tanya by dragging it (Layer 1 copy) below Layer 1 in the palette.

#5. On each duplicate layer, I successively applied the Transform tool to scale down the subject and add the illusion of receding space.

Next, click on the Move tool and then take the cursor over the image of the model in the window. Click on Tanya and drag to the left. Voila! The second Tanya (Layer 1 copy) emerges behind the first, #4.

Create A Dynamic Effect
To create a dynamic effect, I moved the second Tanya slightly lower than the first. Furthermore, to add graphic interest, I made the second image slightly smaller than the first by using the Transform tool. With the second Tanya (Layer 1 copy) selected in the layers palette, I chose Image>Transform>Scale from the main Image menu. This brings up a bounding box around the layer. Click on one of the four outer corner boxes and drag it inward to reduce the size while still maintaining accurate proportions, #5. Once you have re-sized the way you like, double click inside the large box to apply the transformation.

#6. As seen in the Layers palette, the composite is comprised of five layers of the model, plus
the background.

Now, using the Layer 1 copy (the second image of Tanya) as a starting point, drag it to the New Layer icon in the Layers palette, and repeat the steps above, making it slightly smaller still with the Transform tool. This third image of the model will be labeled Layer 1 copy 2. Remember that in the Layers palette, you have to drag it below the Layer 1 copy so that it will appear behind the other Tanyas. Again, click on the Move tool and pull this new layer out from behind the others, and then apply the Transform tool. You can repeat these steps to create as many multiple images as you like.

Play With The Background
To make the background more interesting, you can use Edit>Fill to fill it with any solid color. Be sure that you have the background layer selected in the Layers palette before proceeding. Here, I used the Gradient tool twice to add a graduated gray to the top and bottom of the background to give the picture more depth, #6. Other options include dragging in a new image for the background, or using a fill pattern.

Final Image.
© 2002, Howard Millard, All Rights Reserved

I tweaked the final composite even further by adding motion blur to each image of the model. This is optional, but it does enhance the illusion that this is a real strobe-blur photograph. To add the blur, I started with the top layer, duplicated it, dragged the copy behind the original (all as described earlier). Then I chose Filter>Blur> Motion Blur to blur the copy and adjusted the angle and distance to suit my taste. I repeated this with each of the sharp images of the model. When you're ready to print, make a copy and flatten it. This will drastically reduce the file size.

Following the steps outlined here, you can inject existing photos with dramatic impact by adding a rush of dynamic movement as shown in Final Image.

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